In golf, there are formal game rules and unwritten game rules—both of which work together to ensure a pleasant golf experience for everyone. For example, formal golf rules are updated annually, and professional golfers learn them to stay ahead of the game and their competition.
On the other hand, unwritten game rules are understood among avid golfers, and they help you avoid making an error that could result in dirty looks from others or create tension or distractions during the game or—God forbid—make you unpopular at the golf course. If you’re a new golfer, you may be wondering how you can learn these unwritten rules yourself.
Well, here’s a quick overview to get you started:
1. First things first—At the start of your round, begin a friendly conversation with the group and ask if everybody is okay with playing “ready golf.” It’s okay later in the round to offer a friendly reminder if the group is getting tired and playing a bit slow. In addition, if you have a personal issue at work or at home, let everyone know that you may need to take a call or text during the round. Everyone will understand, and they won’t think it’s rude later if you’re checking or answering your phone.
2. Avoid road blocks—Keep up with the group in front of you. Don’t fall too far behind, especially if there are groups closely behind you.
3. Avoid road blocks part II—Allow faster or smaller groups to play through. They’ll be glad you did and you will too. And when you’re playing through, be quick about it. Don’t hunt for lost balls too long or linger over your putts.
4. Silence is golden—We all love the social aspect of golf. But golf is also a game of concentration. Pay attention to your surroundings, and when others are concentrating on their game, be quiet and they’ll return the favor.
5. Watch your position—Don’t stand too close or in an area distracting to another player. Make sure your cart isn’t too close or directly behind a player’s hitting or putting line as well. When in doubt, ask!
6. Watch your shadow—This is a problem for evening leagues and Fall golfers. Pay attention to your shadow to ensure it doesn’t get in someone else’s putting line or is in the visual field of another player hitting.
7. Be courteous—Leave the course like you found it (or better). Fill your divots, fix your ball marks and any others you see, and rake the bunker after your sandshot.
8. Understand cart etiquette—Park in an area where you’re not walking backwards from the hole to get back to the cart. If possible, park so that other carts can get by. Try to park at the closest spot to the pin, and if your cart partner is scoring, get up and hit.
9. Don’t walk in someone else’s line—On the green, don’t walk in another player’s line. If you can’t humanly avoid doing so, ask permission and apologize profusely.
10. Pull, tend and replace the pin—Ask others if they want you to “tend the pin.” If you’re closest to it, pull the pin. If someone is just off the green, ask if they’d like to keep the pin in or out. Take turns replacing the pin.
11. Putt out—Unless your partner/opponent specifically tells you that your putt is “good,” don’t assume it is and pick it up.
12. Know when to yell “Fore!”— “Fore” is a warning that a wayward shot is coming. If you hit a shot that is headed toward another golfer, a course worker, or anyone else, yell “fore” to warn them a shot may hit them.
13. Return lost clubs—It’s the right thing to do, and this will most likely happen to you in the future.
14. Be a good sport—Don’t laugh when someone misses a short putt or has a really bad shot. Offer consolation if appropriate, but remember you will have your turn as well. Use the golden rule here and treat others like you would like to be treated in a similar situation.
15. Limit screen time—Watch the amount of time you’re using your phone. Enjoy the outdoors and the people around you instead.
16. Respect the game—Have fun but remember to avoid inappropriate behavior. Screaming or yelling so that someone on the next fairway can hear you is uncool. And shaking hands or hugging at the end of a round is a great way to call it a day.
17. Remember when you were a beginner—Don’t be impatient with those who are new to the game. Offer friendly advice and your own personal experiences—good and bad.
18. Tip well—This includes the snack bar, beverage cart, and bag boys. This is their job and they work hard to enhance your experience. And if you’re a regular “good” tipper, you can expect better service, club cleaning, and other perks.
19. Sportsmanship rules—Never sandbag to get a higher handicap. If in doubt about a rule or sticky situation, ask a professional. Everyone likes to win and have a good time, but make sure the game is fair and you’re not acting like a sore loser. Your reputation is one of the most important things you have. You don’t want to be someone that no one wants to play with.
Click here to get a printable card with Savvy Girl’s “Unwritten” Rules of Golf.
And remember to have fun and look for other Savvy Girl Golf cards on ready golf, game rules, conversations, and warm up tips!